Photographing Turkey Vultures On A June Morning

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Alert Turkey Vulture on a square wooden post, Box Elder County, UtahAlert Turkey Vulture on a square wooden post – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Yesterday morning I was in northern Utah on yet another search for birds to photograph, the first bird I photographed was a gorgeous Short-eared Owl and I could be sharing images of it because owls are so striking and appealing to most people but this morning I thought I’d share the Turkey Vultures I photographed. Why? Because I think they are often overlooked, ignored, passed by and even disliked because of their appearance and the fact that they eat carrion grosses some people out.

Hey, even the two species of eagles we have here in North America will eat carrion.

Turkey Vulture over the shoulder look, Box Elder County, UtahTurkey Vulture over the shoulder look on a June morning – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

When the Turkey Vultures have migrated south for the winter I miss seeing them soaring on the thermals, warming up in the morning and seeing them on the roads while being nature’s cleaning crew.

The Turkey Vultures I photographed yesterday morning were on fence posts at first and they seemed to be taking their time before lifting off to sniff out their breakfast from overhead in the sky.

Adult Turkey Vulture on a poop stained fence post, Box Elder County, UtahAdult Turkey Vulture on a poop stained fence post – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1250, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I photographed all four of the Turkey Vultures in the first group before they flew away because each one looked slightly different.

Turkey Vulture in front of a sage covered hillside, Box Elder County, UtahTurkey Vulture in front of a sage covered hillside – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1250, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I’d never get a photo like this back east because there aren’t any sagebrush covered hillsides there. I love sage,  I love the look of it and the smell of it.

Odd looking Turkey Vulture with white feathers, Box Elder County, UtahOdd looking Turkey Vulture with white feathers – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1250, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Then there was this vulture who when it lifted its wings over its body looked a little odd to me because of the white feathers that were exposed in this position. Young Turkey Vultures are white for a bit but this is an adult bird and it doesn’t look the same as the adult vulture in nearly the same exact pose that I photographed two years ago.

Turkey Vulture flying in front of mountains, Box Elder County, UtahTurkey Vulture flying in front of mountains – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I wanted to share a photo of one of the vultures that took flight with the mountains in the background because this is a view of these birds that I frequently see while they are on the wing.

Turkey Vulture shaking its feathers on a fence post, Box Elder County, UtahTurkey Vulture shaking its feathers on a fence post – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I had nice light yesterday when I photographed these Turkey Vultures which made it easier to show all the fine details in their dark plumage.

Turkey Vulture with pooh covered feet and legs, Box Elder County, UtahTurkey Vulture with pooh covered feet and legs – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Did you know that when it is hot Turkey Vultures defecate on their legs and feet to cool off? That is why this vulture’s feet and legs look chalky white.

As a bird photographer I have found that it is easy to make any species of owl look interesting and appealing in my images but it is more of a challenge to do that with Turkey Vultures but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. I will always try.

Life is good.

Mia

9 Comments

  1. Elephants Child June 13, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    How I envy you your vultures. We have none.

  2. April Olson June 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Lovely photos. I enjoyed seeing you and Ron yesterday morning. The vultures were more active for you. I have decided I have enough photos of birds on posts or sticks, the vulture just sat and blinked it’s eye at me, I believe I have photos of the third bird in your post. I took a couple of photos and moved on. I did catch nice iridescence on the feathers. I also have a personal thing about not liking to follow other photographers to the exact shot. I feel it is rude and hard on the wildlife to be tag-teamed.

  3. Terry J Tegarden June 13, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Your attitude toward the Turkey Vulture is refreshingly correct. They are birds. Now, what about passer domesticus, the House Sparrow? They too are birds. Yes yes, they are supposedly introduced and not native. Who cares, they are birds. And native now and a lesson in survival.

  4. Marty K June 13, 2018 at 9:17 am

    These birds are gorgeous! (I had to run out to the living room to pull up your post on my computer vs the iPad so I could see all the wonderfulness!) You’re absolutely right about the light and all the plumage details. These are indeed regal birds. Each bird’s face is so expressive.

    I wish I had this post last week to punctuate my “spirited discussion” about the beauty of TVs with our Grand Canyon tour guide. 😉

  5. Patty Chadwick June 13, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Keep trying!!!

  6. Kathy June 13, 2018 at 8:47 am

    You did a beautiful job with these photos! Nature’s Sanitation Crew at it’s best!

  7. Laila Quick June 13, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Thank you for giving these interesting and regal-looking birds their just due! I love your descriptions of the photos, and your gentle humor. Thank you for sharing your amazing life work with us.

  8. Bob mcpherson June 13, 2018 at 7:10 am

    Cool photos, Mia.

  9. Mary Jo Adams June 13, 2018 at 5:51 am

    I love Turkey Vultures…love to watch them flying. Very cool birds. And these are great images!

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